Military Divorce laws don’t actually exist, but the military does have standard regulations commonly applied to divorces.
By Kristin R.H. Kirkner, B.C.S.
The state courts have the sole and exclusive jurisdiction over divorces, so the term “military divorce laws” is somewhat misleading. However, the military does have some regulations or rules that are commonly applied to divorces:
1. Service member’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA): If the member’s military service prevents the member from participating in the divorce proceeding, the member can ask the court for a “stay” or to essentially delay the proceedings until the member is available.
2. Family Support: This will be addressed more in depth in a subsequent post, but each branch has family support regulations in the absence of a court order. It is possible that the member’s chain of command would be called upon by the non-member spouse or the spouse’s attorney to enforce these regulations either before, or in lieu of, temporary relief.
3. Conduct Unbecoming: Extramarital relations, fraternization and failure to support the family during a separation or dissolution can be reported to the chain of command and may have consequences including loss of rank, loss of pay or forced retirement. While it may seem tempting to report every misdeed, remember that if there is no source of income, it is difficult to get child support and alimony payments on time. Talk to an attorney who regularly deals with cases involving military members before taking this course of action.
4. Military Protection Order: In some situations, particularly when there are allegations of abuse, the military may impose a military protection order. A military protection order is the military equivalent of a no contact order or a restraining order, but it can be enforced through UCMJ. The requirements for a military protection order (MPO) are different than the requirements for an injunction in civil court so if you believe that you are in danger or need protection, it is important to explore your options with an attorney who is familiar with all of your options, both through the court and through the military.
5. Direct payment of Retirement from DFAS: DFAS will make direct payment to the former spouse when 10 years of service overlaps 10 years of the marriage. The State Court will divide the retirement regardless of the length of the marriage, it is only the direct payment that requires a 10 year overlap.
6. Jurisdiction: Military regulations allow a member’s home state to be different from the state of driver’s license issue, which is likely different from their duty station. These military regulations result in members having exposure to jurisdiction in multiple states, based on “home of record, state of driver’s license issue, physical location and proximate residency. The Jurisdictional issues in divorce cases involving military members and their spouses are complex and require someone who is well versed in navigating the logistics of jurisdiction to make sure that you are proceeding in the best state for you and your family.
If you would like a consultation, please fill out the form below and my office will contact you shortly to schedule an appointment. Military divorce “laws” can be complex; work with someone who is extremely knowledgeable in both military and divorce matters.
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